Thursday, May 29, 2014
Georgetown County government will mark the start of the 2014 hurricane season by participating in a large-scale preparedness exercise during the first week of June.
Set for June 2 to 5, the exercise is part of a statewide drill organized by the S.C. Emergency Management Division, and Georgetown County will play a key role.
County residents should expect to see unusual activities in the area that day, including the presence of military aircraft.
The scenario for the exercise involves landfall of a Category 3 hurricane near Charleston, causing devastation to Georgetown County, including destruction of the bridges linking the Waccamaw Neck to the City of Georgetown.
With residents stranded on Pawleys Island, the county will request assistance from groups including the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART) and the S.C. Air National Guard.
This training will assist the coordination efforts of federal, state, regional and local emergency response capabilities needed to save lives and protect the public and their property prior to and following a hurricane.
A mobile emergency operations center will be set up at the Georgetown County Airport, which will also be hard hit by the hypothetical storm. The S.C. Air National Guard will offer assistance by bringing in resources to support mobile communications and setting up a mobile air traffic control center.
F-16s will be in the area for damage assessment, while a C-130 cargo plane will be brought in to airlift supplies to victims stranded on the Waccamaw Neck. SC-HARTís Blackhawk helicopters will be brought in for search and rescue operations.
The scenario is also expected to include a chemical spill just outside Georgetown, giving emergency responders a chance to test Haz Mat skills. 3V, Inc., a chemical company, will team up with the county for this portion of the exercise.
A complete schedule for the exercise is still being put together, but June 2 and 3 are expected to be dedicated to preparation for an approaching storm, including evacuation.
Landfall is planned for June 4 and recovery activities and the hypothetical chemical spill are expected on June 5.
The exercise begins just one day after the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.
In addition to offering valuable training for emergency responders and other county officials, Sam Hodge, the countyís emergency manager, said he hopes the drill will also raise public awareness and motivate residents to make their own emergency plans.
The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season normally doesnít come until around September, but that makes now an ideal time to start preparations.
Information to help residents get ready for hurricane season is available at www.gtcounty.org/emergency_management or www.scemd.org. Residents can also call Georgetown Countyís Emergency Management Division at 843-545-3273.